Schools OK cash for heating, sports facilities, more

By Jason Hawk -

The ball is rolling on four big-money projects at the Amherst Schools, starting with nearly $222,000 to design and engineer heating and cooling upgrades.

The money was approved last Tuesday to pay Clark & Post Architects to draft plans to overhaul heating, ventilation, and install air condition systems at Steele High School and Nord Middle School.

Another $113,000 for new LED lighting at the schools was included in a proposal from the firm but not adopted by the school board.

The cash doesn’t cover the actual cost of construction. The Amherst board of education will still need to hire a contractor to do the job.

Last month, voters approved a bond issue to pay for construction of a new PK-3 school on South Lake Street, with $14.2 million of the estimated $32 million price tag footed by the state. Some of that money will pay for the Steele and Nord overhauls.

Other projects kick-started with Clark & Post include:

Exploration of a new restroom facility and concession area for Mercy Stadium at Steele High School, which architects estimate would cost between $300,000 and $340,000.

Amherst Schools superintendent Steven Sayers said other sports facility upgrades — think Sliman’s Diamond — have been done with financial partners. An academic example is the recent remodeling of the former Steele media center with a $200,000 pledge from the Amherst Schools Educational Foundation.

While Clark & Post fleshes out details of the plan, he wants to go hunting for support among booster clubs, corporate sponsors, and others.

“There are a lot of ways that when you get a lot of groups working toward the same goals you can get some things done,” said Sayers.

A likely overhaul of the Amherst Junior High media center, estimated at $70,000.

The aforementioned Steele media center remodel (the space is now dubbed the creative learning center) has proven popular among students and teachers. Other school districts are taking notice, touring the facility to weigh their own library makeovers.

Amherst educators want to export the high school model to the junior high, turning away from books and putting an emphasis on digital presentation-making and small group collaboration.

As with the stadium deal, the anticipated price tag here wouldn’t cover furnishings, computers, permit fees, moving costs, or other contingencies.

Moving modular classrooms that are being used today at Harris Elementary, which will cost about $60,000.

When Harris is demolished to make way for the new PK-3 school, two modulars would go to Nord Middle School and one to Powers Elementary.

By the 2019-2020 school year, the Amherst district will no longer have any need for the modular units, according to the board of education.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk